Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Belgians Find Elusive 'Man in the Hat' from Airport Video

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Belgians Find Elusive 'Man in the Hat' from Airport Video

Article excerpt

BRUSSELS * After nearly three weeks of frantic searching, Belgian authorities announced Saturday that they had finally identified the elusive "man in the hat" spotted alongside the two suicide bombers who blew themselves up at Brussels Airport: It was Paris attacks suspect Mohamed Abrini.

Belgium's Federal Prosecution Office said the recently detained Abrini the last identified suspect at large from the deadly Nov. 13 Paris attacks had also confessed to being the vest- and hat- wearing man linked to the Brussels bombers whose image had been widely circulated by authorities.

"After being confronted with the results of the different expert examinations, he confessed his presence at the crime scene," they said in a terse statement.

The revelation that a Paris attacks suspect escorted two of the Brussels bombers to their deaths at the city's airport is the strongest sign yet that the Islamic State attackers who brought mayhem to both European cities killing a total of 162 people were intimately linked.

Abrini, 31, was one of four suspects charged Saturday with "participating in terrorist acts" linked to the March 22 Brussels bombings that killed 32 people and wounded 270 others at the airport and in the city's subway.

The prosecutors said Abrini, a Belgian-Moroccan petty criminal who was detained Friday in a Brussels police raid, threw away his vest in a garbage bin and sold his hat after the March 22 bombings.

Prosecutors did not respond to calls seeking further details. A legal representative for Abrini could not be immediately located for comment Saturday night.

Surveillance footage placed Abrini in the convoy with the attackers who headed to Paris ahead of the Nov. 13 massacre that left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded in the French capital.

Abrini was a childhood friend of Brussels brothers Salah and Brahim Abdeslam, both suspects in the Paris attacks, and he had ties to Abdelhamid Abbaoud, the Paris attackers' ringleader who died in a French police raid shortly afterward.

Brahim Abdeslam blew himself up in the Paris bombings; Salah Abdeslam was arrested in Brussels on March 18 four days before the attacks there after a four-month manhunt. …

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